EGYPT'S MOST FAMED SNAKE-CHARMER 249
ago, but they had now almost disappeared from modern Egypt. The common snake-charmer had never been initiated into this Dervish order and was consequently dependent upon working with harmless snakes or upon the use of certain substances which protected the skin, or some other inferior method.
Moussa explained that he proposed to transmit a certain degree of that mystic power to me, sufficient to render me immune from the bite of the deadliest serpents and most dangerous scorpions. This, together with the words of certain invocations, both public and secret, which he would communicate to me, as also the promised gift of a written talisman, would constitute my initiation into his Dervish order. I must, however, carry out his detailed instructions which would be given me during the training; I was also to continue to respect the name of Allah and His Prophet, Muhammed. This I agreed to do.
An extraordinary requirementóbut one common enough in all initiations by Yogis and fakirs of the Orientówas that, for seven days before the power was transmitted, the disciple had to seclude himself and live only on a little bread and water. He should also devote the week to prayer and meditation, detaching himself from all worldly concerns and interests for the period.
The Sheikh claimed that this secret power, with the secret invocation, had been traditionally passed down since the days of King Solomon, for whom Moussa appeared to have an exaggerated reverence. In the latter respect, he was not alone; for I had discovered that most Egyptian fakirs seemed to regard Solomon as having been himself the first and greatest of fakirs, a supreme master of occult wisdom, and indeed a magician with unlimited powers.
In due time the preliminaries were complete; the Sheikh communicated a secret Arabic "Word of Power," which, so he asserted, would influence the serpents if mentally pronounced by any trained person; he also brought me the promised talisman. It was a sheet of paper covered with Arabic writing, mostly magical spells and verses from the Quran. He further brought the leather case in which he wished me to enclose it after I had used the paper for a couple of days;